John Fisher and the Art of Equivocation

A’s and Quakes co-owner John Fisher was on hand at the Avaya Stadium ribbon-cutting ceremony in San Jose today. He was obviously there to celebrate end of the Quakes’ long journey to their own home. Fisher is known as the “soccer guy” in the ownership group, and Elliott Almond’s article sheds some light on that soccer background.

However, the Merc’s headline writer saw fit to make this about baseball with the title, “A’s owner John Fisher: Baseball team’s turn for new stadium.” Fisher was indeed asked about a ballpark for the A’s, and as you’d expect, he provided no new information. Instead he said this:

The Bay Area deserves great facilities. We live in the greatest area in the world and we have incredible teams that have performed tremendously well.

Whether you think Fisher was being intentionally vague or simply choosing to focus on the accomplishment at hand, it was Fisher’s first real statement about anything as part of the ownership group. That in itself is pretty big. I don’t necessarily expect more from him or a more visible role, though his presence at an earlier meeting with Libby Schaaf is perhaps promising. Keith Wolff was also at the Avaya Stadium ceremony, while Lew Wolff has been in Mesa for spring training activities.

Now take a look at these quotes.

This has been my biggest thing, ingress and egress for the (venue) and the parking are the two most important things to me.

In these focus groups we’ve had in there in the last week or two, the first question seven out of eight groups asked is, ‘Where is the parking?’

They’re showing all this grand building, a baseball stadium, there’s a football stadium there’s the arena, there’s all these residential things. And there’s no parking.

Did that come from Mark Davis? Or Lew Wolff?

And this one:

Parking is a key issue for us. We want surface parking surrounding the (venue) wherever we build it unless we’re in the heart of a downtown.

Davis? Or Wolff?

Now consider the the reaction to these quotes. The first set received little blowback at the time. The second had a lot of negative reaction. The content and sentiment were essentially the same. They have problems with how Coliseum City is conceived because it could cause problems with the way they operate their respective franchises. Then why such dramatically different reactions?

With Davis, many assume that either he’s more-or-less earnest about most everything: his handling of the stadium issue, his management of the Raiders, right down to the establishments he chooses to patronize. (That shouldn’t be confused with success.) Wolff, on the other hand, is considered forever the schemer looking for any excuse to leave. He’s the absentee owner, even though both guys are based in LA. Wolff has the anti-Oakland track record. His timing is spectacularly bad at times. Davis is Tommy Boy, all about honoring his dad. Whatever indiscretions or failures Davis has can be chalked up to being the family black sheep. He’s not really supposed to be here.

It just goes to show that even when two men have the same message, the prevailing narrative takes over. At some point these men will have to make deals, and those narratives will fade away. Or maybe they’ll be reinforced.

35 thoughts on “John Fisher and the Art of Equivocation

  1. Their presence yesterday with Mayor Sam was promising as well. Looking forward to seeing all of them at San Jose’s next big ribbon cutting ceremony. As John Fisher himself would say…patience. Congrats Quakes fans, we’re next!

  2. Looking forward to the opening of the EQ stadium. Like the fact that the transit plan has bus bridges between downtown SJ and the new stadium.

    Having been to Levi’s stadium this year on multiple occasions I feel the stadium itself is absolutely beautiful and top notch. However, the transit plan was ill-conceived and will most likely require some serious investment to fix. I would be interested to have an urban planner look at the proposed CC and its parking and infrastructure to that of Levi’s- I have to believe that Levi’s ingress and egress maybe better than what is proposed at CC. Either way- imagine the whining that will occur from the fans if either the Raiders or A’s don’t get this right- especially after learning the lessons from Levi’s.

    Go Quakes!

  3. Column on point and you are right eventually each team must make a decision. In Oakland that decision will be made within a decision-making framework established by the City and County. There are other decision-making frameworks in other jurisdictions. The leagues are the ultimate decision maker on the jurisdiction for each team; the jurisdiction will make the decision making framework (including in some case the financing conditions) and the team owners get to negotiate within that framework. Fun to watch but frustrating for fans and participants.

  4. It’s becoming painfully apparent to both Oakland and Alameda County elected officials that if the Coliseum area is to remain long-term as a venue for major level professional sports, they will have to put all their entire focus and effort on trying to retain just one of its three teams currently located there. As to which team that should be, the answer is obvious. There is truly only one professional sports team that has repeatedly stated its desire to remain at the current Coliseum site. In addition, this team is much more emotionally identified to the Greater Oakland and East Bay community than its other two sports teams. As long as there is a willingness and desire on both sides of the negotiations for the Raiders to remain at the Coliseum site, whether in a new or rebuilt/renovated Coliseum, a long-term stadium deal can be worked out. Once the Raiders finally get their Oakland stadium deal done, it should then start to fall in place for the A’s to finally be able to accomplish their Bay Area new ballpark plans, as well.

    • Agree llpec,
      There were some tidbits in the Twitter verse yesterday re Kephart and the county/city of O getting near an agreement re the Coli land AND the Raiders possibly offering up to a 20% stake in the team to a deep pocketed investor (per Lennie). Whether true or not is another story, but my gut feeling (or wishful thinking) is that the Raiders/Kephart are close..

      • I think so too. It’s the urgency of the Chargers/Raiders stadium deal that is pushing this forward IMO. If oakland city/county do not act fast, the Raiders will be forced to sign on with the Chargers soon and then they are gone because if that deal happens it’s happening quickly.

        I also think they prefer to work with the Raiders since the A’s are saying they want full control of the site. Show me ANY government body that wants to give up that much control over something they currently run… it just doesn’t happen – or it’s extremely rare at best. I think they know agreeing to terms with the A’s is a long-shot.

      • @ Tony D.

        I hope so as well.

      • I’ll believe it when i see it.

      • Wolff is 100% correct about demanding control over development at the Coliseum site. The A’s are spending $600 mil. out of their own pocket for a new stadium, and also willing to retire the debt Oakland owes for the previous Coliseum and Oracle Arena refurbishments – for that much dough, the A’s should have total control over the site’s development.

    • Bingo! For a variety of reasons, none of with has anything to do with 81 games vs 10 games. ( because we should all know it’s not that simple)

    • Things cost money. Desire is totally secondary.

      • @ SMG
        If Wolff doesn’t have the desire, Davis needs to find the money.
        I know, I’m assuming Wolff doesn’t desire Oakland, and Davis dose. That’s not to say that Davis won’t ultimately build in LA, or Wolff in Oakland, but if Davis didn’t at least have the desire to do so he probably could have been gone by now.
        Wolff on the other hand, not so much.

  5. it’d be pretty damn comical if the city of oakland once again chooses the raiders over the a’s.

    • Yes, just what Wolff wants people to think. It’s not an even handed choice, at least it doesn’t appear to be.

    • I will grant you this, it was certainly a comical choice in the past. Right now however, with Wolff employing his wait Davis strategy, it’s the Only one that makes sense for Oakland.
      I hope the A’s get San Jose in the process.

  6. MLB has made it clear it wants that site. If the city gives it to the Raiders and again tries to convince MLB and the A’s that it still can accommodate the A’s under these conditions, then it is going to be time for MLB to devise a long term plan for the A’s since Oakland will be out of the picture.

  7. Montreal A’s . How does it sound ?

  8. About as likely as the Saturn A’s. Maybe a little less so.

  9. MLB will be able to pull up stakes from Oakland while saying “We gave Oakland every chance for two decades to get a new ballpark developed. We are out of options in Oakland now that the Coliseum site is to be developed for a football stadium, despite the existence of a state-of-the-art, brand new stadium for the Raiders usage a half hour away.”

  10. i came to the conclusion that all three teams will leave Oakland by 2020. No money, no show.

    • Dosagree…I bet all 3 will be here

      • Not a chance with the Raiders, A’s and Warriors have one foot out the door.

        Oakland has no money and the Warriors will be in San Francisco by 2020.

        Will the A’s and Raiders stay?!?!? Dunno, but i would never bet on it.

        Don’t believe me….ask pjk and the City of Oakland.

  11. Eventually we are going to get a ballpark, in poorville or in richville, thank you Marline Layer for this site.

    Unfortunately I think the Raiders are gone, there is just not enough support for two NFL franchises here and Mark is too stupid to just move 35 miles down south. He is too busy partying at Hooters. He does not care about families that have their hopes and dreams with this team. They work hard, follow the draft, look forward to free agent signings and cant wait for the preseason.

    Bowl head only cares about glitz and glamour, booty calls, whats in it for me, and how can I make my franchise more valuable. Mark, you ever thought moving 35 miles down south? They have more money than God!

    I guess we still have Billy Ball, how depressing!

  12. -San Jose for the A’s is pure fantasy….even if MLB gives the OK….the people of SJ will vote them down. Remember, this is a city(SJ) and county(SC) who voted down the Giants…..TWICE!

    -There is a current ballot initiative or movement in Las Vegas to attract an NHL team, from what I understand. Last I heard they were about 10,000 signatures or season ticket commitments short of the goal. If this does succeed the floodgates to Vegas will open for pro sports and the A’s will may be one of the first teams headed there if Oakland is a no-go.

    -Can someone please correct me….is it true that the minute the Raiders cross into LA County the value of the franchise doubles? How can any sane business person pass up that opportunity if it’s true? Especially M. Davis, who could almost double the value of his team overnight by moving 500 miles south. Tough to pass that one up folks.

    • Why would the people of San Jose vote down a free ballpark that they don’t even have to pay for? San Jose voted down the Giants ONCE because it required a utility tax to pay for the stadium. Santa Clara voted down the Giants once also. Please learn facts before posting anything. Thanks…FWIW, the Vegas NHL ticket drive has fallen pretty far short of its goal, last I checked.

      • “the Vegas NHL ticket drive has fallen pretty far short of its goal, last I checked”

        Thank god. NHL + Vegas + Maloofs = idiotic. Actually any two of those equals the same thing.

    • @Alex – Las Vegas would be the smallest sized MLB market (1.7 mil.) – the A’s fanbase (and the bay area) is much larger (7.8 mil) the A’s are not moving to Las Vegas.

      Also, In a Merc news poll 62% of San Jose residents favor the A’s moving here. Recall San Jose voters wisely rejected the giants in the pre-Sharks days. Since then, SJ residents have observed first hand how the Sharks and the Shark tank have improved the SJ downtown – and know that the A’s and a new SJ ballpark would improve San Jose’s downtown even more. SJ voters will likely approve the A’s moving here (especially since the A’s will fund 100% of the ballpark’s cost!)

    • “Can someone please correct me….is it true that the minute the Raiders cross into LA County the value of the franchise doubles?”

      I have seen speculation to this effect, but not a lot of deep thought seems to have gone into it and frankly, I doubt it. This speculation mostly seems driven by the insane price paid for the LA Clipppers, but the NFL is not the NBA. NFL teams share TV and merchandise revenue equally and even ticket revenue for non-premium seating on a 60/40 split. Because of the highly socialist structure of the NFL the difference between the big market teams and small market teams in revenue and valuations is very flat.

      For example, Forbes estimates the big market New York Giants revenue (#1 MSA market, shared) at $353 million and Chicago Bears revenue (#3 MSA market) at $309 million. In contrast, they estimate the small market Denver Broncos (#21 MSA market) at $309 million, Pittsburgh Steelers ( #22 MSA market) at $287 million and.Indianapolis Colts (#33 MSA market) at $285 million.

      Each team’s specific stadium deal and ancillary revenue potential (e.g. Patriots place) is a far bigger differentiator of NFL team valuations than market size. Simply the fact of getting a modern NFL stadium will benefit the Raiders more than a move to LA, all things being equal. It is for this reason than we have had teams in places like Jacksonville and Nashville rather than Los Angeles for the last twenty years.

      • Sorry, that was a typo: Denver Broncos at $301 million. Nevertheless the point remains there’s not a lot of difference between big market team revenue and small market team revenue, adjusting for other factors.

      • bartleby – While you are correct about NFL revenues not being so location dependent, you also have to factor in the limited amount of corporate support available in Oakland/East Bay. Building a new stadium does not “simply” sell the luxury boxes and seats, as we’ve seen with Mt Davis.

        After the novelty of a new stadium wears off in a couple years, what will stop them from being blacked-out if they aren’t winning? Especially with the higher seat prices. Unlike Indianapolis, the Raiders aren’t the only game in town.

        The Raiders *might* be viable in Oakland, but the franchise will be worth far, far more in Los Angeles. It also offers them an opportunity to reboot the “Raider Image” and all the perceptual baggage that goes along with the team.

  13. @pjk

    That’s what I meant…the city voted down the Giants once and the a County measure also rejected the Giants…Those are the facts. Doesn’t matter the contents of the vote…in the end the final vote was no. Those are the facts.

    • @ Alex “Doesn’t matter the contents of the vote…in the end the final vote was no. Those are the facts.”

      If you can’t see that there’s an enormous difference between a massive stimulus project that requires a big public investment and one that comes for free, I suppose there’s no point debating the point with you.

      As others have noted, since the Giant’s deals were turned down both San Jose (SAP Center) and Santa Clara (Levi’s Stadium) have approved projects that required public investment of over $100 million each. An A’s ballpark with $0 public investment toward construction would be a no-brainer and would be approved by something like 60% at least.

  14. We are talking more than 20 years ago regarding votes on taxpayer subsidized ballpark in SJ and SCCo. Since then the Tank, Levi’s and Avaya stadium have all been built- if the gints had proposed a privately financed ballpark back in 1992 they would now be playing in SJ today as the San Jose Gints- which would be absolutely horrible for me as an A’s fan-

    • Lurie wanted SJ taxpayers to pay for the ballpark. Voters told him to take a hike. Wolff’s ballpark is privately financed.

  15. Just noticed that Avaya stadium has 5500 parking spaces for 18k capacity. Assuming a new A’s ballpark of 35k with 20% using mass transit still leaves 28k fans that need parking which puts it close to 9000 parking spaces required. At 100-120 per acre you are talking more than 80 acres for parking alone- pretty easy to understand the limitations of the existing Coli site for both the raiders and A’s if you are going to maximize the fan experience and avoid parking garages.

    However, I could see an argument for oakland and ALCo that says since there can’t be any ancillary development around a ballpark due to limited land then it really doesn’t matter that the A’s play 81 dates v 10 for the Raiders. The economic impact is negligible because people are still just driving to the stadium and leaving after the game. No one is spending entertainment dollars in Oakland outside of the stadium. However, with only 10 home football dates maybe some ancillary development can work and there could be improved economic impact by keeping the raiders v the A’s. There still Would be a lack of land necessary to support surface level parking and ancillary development but if it’s only for 10 games v 81 maybe it’s easier to come up with a solution that works for both the football stadium and some sort of ancillary development.

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